The bus ride from Inle Lake to Mandalay went pretty smooth. Except for the poor kid in front of us who was puking on the floor during the very curvy ride out of the mountains. Felt really bad for him, but it is so common for the locals to get car sick. Every mini-bus is equipped with plastic bags and the roads can be so bumpy and curvy its no wonder they get sick.
We were told to spend as little time in Mandalay as possible. But we discounted that advice the first afternoon. Mandalay surprised us. We rented bikes the next day and proceeded to roughly do the bike tour as outlined in our guide book. We stopped at the train station to buy our $3.30 ticket for the next day and then rode all the way to the river to see the boats. And laundry. It was fascinating to see all the ladies along the riverbank scrubbing their clothes and then hanging them on the boat lines or laying them in the grass to dry. Along the way, we crossed a cool long, low pedestrian bridge. We stopped at a few monasteries, where we got many stares, and many barks.
After roughly following the bike tour through un-named alleys and unmarked roads, we headed north to Mandalay Hill. But first we stopped at the post office, where I dispatched two postcards to my brother and grandmother for their upcoming birthdays (this is proof that I did not forget – whether they arrive or not). We circled the palace walls, which are basically just a reconstruction of the original enclosing a reconstruction of the main palace area. Something we decided to skip based on the reviews and the price.
Along the wall, we stopped for lunch at the Golden Duck, mostly because it was on the map and I was starving, and I am not too fun to be around when hungry. We instantly felt out of place when the valet offered to take our bikes, our push bikes and ushered us into an elevator. This is not our normal restaurant. We’re used to open flames and dogs eating the scraps under our feet. Much to our surprise, they had reasonable prices and we ordered three small dishes for less than $8. And they were HUGE. We couldn’t finished them, though we gave it our best shot. And then when we asked for the bill, they brought us some sweet gooey coconut things, which I devoured, despite being full.
We continued onto Mandalay Hill, parked our bikes and removed our shoes and socks. That’s right. AND socks. This is something I cannot get behind. I will remove my shoes, no problem. But please let me keep on my socks. I currently have massive blisters on three of my toes. And then they make you walk 30 minutes up concrete steps to the top. And the stairs are covered in bird poop and red betelnut juice spit. I just don’t understand. Its not clean. Its gross.
But along the way, I befriended some cats. And since I was already dirty, I petted them, which I don’t normally do (except for all those other pictures you have seen). At the top, we were rewarded with a splendid view of the city and tons of tiny mirrors inlaid in the columns. We meandered around the top before returning the same way, barefoot to the bottom and riding back before it got too dark.
Next stop: Train to Kyaukme for trekking